We All Need a Place to Hang
Convenience stores turned hangouts
By Rachel Kelly
Photo By Samantha Elise Tillman
Many times, they don’t start out looking like anything much: They were convenience stores, grocery markets, gas stations or farm stands. But they were in the center of it all, which made them into something more. When you had nowhere to be, but you wanted to be out, these places gave you reason to be out. After a bit of a wander, you might feel like a snack. And while you're getting a snack, you might as well shoot the breeze with Cheryl, your neighbor. She felt like going out too, because she also had some stuff to do. Nothing urgent. Just stuff. The stuff was the excuse, and it probably did need doing. But she ran into you, and now she might just stick around. In places where there is no real hurry, small convenience stores become the center of something else entirely. It’s a lovely little evolution.
Zog’s on Fox Island is one such a place. Back in the ‘60s, the original store was over by the ferry dock. At some point the store was moved inland. It wasn’t seen then as a particularly notable event. So, it wasn’t really noted. “My father acquired the store in 1981. I’m not 100 percent sure when it was first opened,” says the current owner Andrew Herzog. When or why it was moved, well, I guess, we don’t know. But it happened. Needless to say, the details are a bit fuzzy. Regardless, Zog’s did become a place where people could hang out. Eventually its importance as a center for community became so apparent that Zog’s expanded.
It was a store. Then it was a deli. After that came espresso. More recently (2014) Zog’s added a beer garden. “Zog’s started out as a small taproom concept but has since grown into much more than that,” says Andrew.
Fox Island is small and secluded. It can be hard to meet the neighbors, especially if those neighbors are new. Zog’s itself is a lovely little gem for meeting others, with an out-of-the-way sign to the right of the original deli. Like passing through the doors of a secret garden, and into an exclusive place all their own, Fox Island residents are greeted with a landscaped garden, patio, full-service restaurant, fire pits, various beers on tap, and a stage for live music. For a little bedroom community like Fox Island, without even a real town center, Zog’s is exactly what it needs to be. Not just a bar, but a place to just be “out.”
In Gig Harbor there are several places like Zog’s. The town itself was founded in the 1800s but didn’t become a destination until the construction of the Narrows Bridge. Everyone knows the story of “Galloping Gertie” and its famous collapse, but what people don’t often consider are the changes within the local economy after the construction of the bridge. Gig Harbor was once a place of boats, ferries, and their builders. After the construction of Galloping Gertie in the 1940s, the local economy changed and boats became less important. Boat building flagged. However, after its collapse, the evolving economy reverted back to its previous condition. After a permanent bridge was built successfully in the 1950s, the current Narrows Bridge, the local traffic picked up. Gig Harbor already had its little places of commerce; its little convenience stores and gas stations. However, as the community continued to expand, these places of convenience expanded. No matter its growth, however, Gig Harbor will always be a small town. A place to know your neighbors. As a result, these little convenience stores that were already there, and some that just sort of appeared, thrived. And they are still thriving today.
Stores like Finholm’s. Established in … forever ago, Finholm’s is conveniently located along the historic downtown. It’s one of those places that has changed over time to accommodate its community, providing everyday needs such as meats and produce. However, they also provide indoor and outdoor seating for Reeseman’s, the full-service deli, and the large variety of ciders and beers on tap. And wine! Don’t forget the wine. There’s a lot of that too.
The local hangouts in Gig Harbor don't just stop at markets; there’s a fair share of gas stations too. Places like Island View Market, which first opened its doors in the 1950s. It’s a gas station, but now it’s not only that. It’s also a great place to grab last-minute groceries and beer or wine. Or Rosedale, which started out as a gas station but, under new management, it also provides espresso, sandwiches, and various odds and ends. These places are places to gather. To be. Sure, maybe the passerby can get some gas or whatever, but that’s just a convenient excuse. Gathering doesn’t really need much encouragement.
Some places, like Artondale Farm, aren’t gathering places by necessity. For Artondale Farm, gathering evolved through shared resources. Nine years ago, Jess and Scot Hogan quit their jobs to pursue glass artistry. They did some gardening on the side. A few years in, they sold their glass art at the local farmers market, with produce on the side. The following year, they also sold eggs. Soon the produce and eggs outsold their glass art, and a full-fledged farm was born! The Hogan family built for themselves a self-sustaining lifestyle. The knowledge that they picked up along the way they pass along through a series of classes taught at Tacoma Community College. Thus, through shared knowledge and neighborhood involvement, a community is born.
The beauty of connection are the obvious benefits that happen in the community as a result. These small businesses benefit from their status as the local watering hole, and as such, they expand. Giving more back. Zog’s on Fox Island has hosted and helped fund food and clothing drives, as well as supported the local PTA. Artondale Farm shares their secrets of sustainability through education. Finholm’s has expanded to fill other holes in the community, providing a space to rest in the heart of town. Island View Market evolved from a simple station, to a store that serves its patrons directly on the water. Like an oasis in a desert. Then there’s Rosedale, which has kept its expansion simple and its contributions straightforward—a coffee and a chat.
The importance of these locations are obvious in the way that the community has cared for them. Like the broken windows at Arletta Store. When the store was vandalized, the community rallied around to raise money for their repair. They simply didn’t want to see Bob and Becky have to shoulder the cost. The fact that these places have continued to thrive throughout 2020 shows the value of their business. We all need places to hang. And thanks to these places, we always will.